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Highlights from the February 2006 Journal of the American Dietetic Association

Does Offering Lower-Fat Entrees at School Lunch Lead Kids to Make Healthful Selections? Schools that make even "a minimal" effort to decrease the number of "high-fat, popular entrée options" in school meals can see an increase in the number of children making lower-fat choices, according to researchers at the University of Texas.

The researchers conducted a two-part study to determine the impact of an environmental change to increase the selection of lower-fat foods by elementary schoolchildren. In the first part, students could choose from three different entrées, one of which was lower in fat than the others. In Phase Two, choices were between two entrées, one of which was lower in fat.

According to the researchers, "a reduction in available choices had a significant impact on the selection patterns of elementary schoolchildren….Specifically, low-fat entrées were selected more than twice as often when they were paired with one rather than two alternative entrées."

"Taken together, the results of this study indicate that a minimal intervention to decrease the number of competing, high-fat, popular entrée options is sufficient to increase children's selection of low- or moderate-fat entrees."

Perceptions of High School Foodservice Directors and Principals on Competitive Food Policies Less than a year before all school districts in the country must put into place wellness policies designed to improve the nutrition and health of all children in the district, researchers from Pennsylvania State University surveyed high school foodservice directors and principals "to determine the extent, nature and level of enforcement of current school nutrition policies."

The researchers also wanted to discover foodservice directors' and principals' views on whether their schools have – and enforce – policies on "competitive foods." These items are sold in settings such as vending machines and school fund raisers. They tend to be lower in nutritional value than food items sold as part of school meals and – unlike school meals – are subject to minimal federal regulation.

The results of the survey of 228 foodservice directors and 79 principals at schools in Pennsylvania found few of the schools have nutrition policies in place relating to the nutritional standards of competitive foods. And the survey indicated principals were significantly more likely than foodservice directors to be aware that competitive food policies exist and to report that they are enforced.

"Clearly, compliance with the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 will require a significant change in current policies and practices," the researchers write.

Buying Competitive Foods and Participating in School Lunch Programs: Is There a Connection? The same group of Pennsylvania State University researchers sought to "identify the factors predictive of competitive food sales and school lunch participation" among high school students. Surveying 271 school foodservice directors, the researchers found:

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The Journal of the American Dietetic Association is the official research publication of the American Dietetic Association and is the premier peer-reviewed journal in the field of nutrition and dietetics.

With nearly 65,000 members, the American Dietetic Association is the nation's largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. Based in Chicago, ADA serves the public by promoting optimal nutrition, health and well-being. Visit ADA at www.eatright.org.


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